It's three years since Dublin and Kerry last met on the grand stage, in that 2019 All-Ireland final, and according to Jack O'Connor, the Kerry players have been itching to get a crack at their great rivals since.

They were supposed to meet in the closed doors championship of 2020 but Kerry shockingly messed up against Cork in a Páirc Uí Chaoimh downpour. They were absolutely destined to collide in the subsequent knockout championship of 2021 - but then both of them proceeded to mess up in the same weekend, allowing Mayo and Tyrone, neither remotely fancied at the outset, progress to the decider.

No such hiccups in 2022. There was no Mark Keane lurking around to blow the schedule off course this time. The long-awaited clash can now happen.

Getting a read on either side on the basis of their championship run thus far is a forlorn endeavour. The progress being made on the treatment table may be more to the point.

After much speculation, the Dublin team was published yesterday, with neither Con O'Callaghan and James McCarthy starting, rumours spreading that the former wasn't even included in the match-day 26. The pair had sat out the comfortable but slightly underwhelming quarter-final win over Cork. After the Dubs conga-danced their way through Leinster, the last-eight game saw a return to a more sedate pace.

O'Callaghan's re-introduction after Dublin's alarming league campaign was widely touted as the trigger for their return to form in the Leinster championship. The Dubs, with the Cuala superstar leading the line, rocketed home five goals in a brutal and surreal first half against Kildare.

Dessie Farrell dodged the question on the nature of his injury after the Cork game. The injury was initially reported to be a hamstring issue but The Star reported this week that O'Callaghan was dealing with a 'hairline fracture', the latter of which would preclude his involvement. Unless the team named on Saturday turns out to be a ruse, he won't feature today. He would be a mammoth loss ahead of the biggest game of their season.

Con O'Callaghan, rampant in the Leinster final, is a major doubt ahead of Sunday

David Clifford, meanwhile, looked only semi-fit in the quarter-final - and injured himself further in the opening minutes - though he survived the encounter and scored the game's only goal.

Most pundits, at a loss for who to pick this weekend, have hedged it, suggesting the outcome will hinge on the availability and fitness of the two big C's in the respective inside forward lines.

The game is seismic for Kerry, in particular. Darragh Ó Sé didn't exactly make strenuous efforts to dial down the pressure in his Irish Times column this week, writing that defeat for Kerry would be "catastrophic".

Kerry haven't beaten Dublin in the championship since visiting the ultimate humiliation upon them in the famous 'startled earwigs' game of 2009 - Ó Sé's last campaign for Kerry, as it happens. Since then, the balance of power has shifted radically, Dublin winning five from five in the 2010s. It's quite enough losses to be going on with, according to Darragh. It's zero consolation that most of the games in question have been classics or near classics - with the exception of the dreary and ill-tempered 2015 decider.

Impatient for an All-Ireland yesterday, Kerry brutally dispensed with Peter Keane last autumn and Jack O'Connor was sent for. Jacko was still reputed to be signing on with Kildare for another term - something he later denied - but he wasn't long accepting the call from home. The three-time All-Ireland winning manager was back for a third stint, a decade after stepping away for a second time.

O'Connor presided over the gleeful mauling in '09 though is said to be still miffed by fateful All-Ireland final loss in 2011, the ultimate sliding doors moment in the modern Dublin-Kerry rivalry.

With 10 minutes left, Kerry appeared to be managing that game as they had done the All-Ireland final against Cork two years earlier, leading by four points, nursing possession and running down the clock. They were in the process of wrapping it up, sealing a fifth All-Ireland title in eight years. Then Kerry's bete noire Kevin McManaman intervened and the relationship took off in a different direction for the next decade.

Kerry began the year in mean mood and their swaggering demolition of Mayo in the league final, combined with Dublin's ropey form at the time, saw them installed as clear favourites for the All-Ireland once again.

Jack O'Connor commiserates with James Horan after the quarter-final

Since then, talk around Kerry has consisted of 30% discussion of matches and 70% O'Connor complaining about the long gaps between matches. The system changes next year but the Kerry boss is keen to jeer the present format on its way out the door, again labelling the long lulls between competitive games as "crazy" and "ridiculous" in the aftermath of the quarter-final.

Expectations of Cork were so low that Kerry's 11-point win in Páirc Uí Rinn was almost taken as a moral victory for the hosts, with Clifford kept quiet. Limerick were slaughtered in a pointless Munster final in Killarney.

In years past, an eight-point dismissal of Mayo might have turned more heads but Mayo's 2022 model was a battered old vehicle on its last legs, missing several vital parts. In a curiously listless encounter, in which the crowd's energy seemed to be sapped after the Galway-Armagh epic, Kerry were sluggish in the first half but found their groove in the second as Mayo's trademark energy waned.

While Clifford, hobbling for a lot of the game, was relatively subdued in comparison to his league final exhibition, other Kerry players impressed, notably the veteran David Moran, who clipped two points from midfield and their magnificent raiding 'defender' Tom O'Sullivan, who registered 0-03 despite wearing No. 4 on his back.

Paddy Tally's involvement was divisive and an affront to the purists, though Kerry's entry in the goals conceded column is notably low in 2022. Across 11 games in league and championship this year, they've conceded two goals - less than they shipped in a single afternoon last August.

Bullishness around Kerry's chances has primarily dimmed due to the apparent revival of Dublin, who, on the evidence of Leinster, have left their 2021 funk in the rear-view mirror.

Their rivals dared to dream that the empire was finished in early spring. Dessie Farrell's side followed up their anaemic showing last year with four straight losses at the beginning of the league and eventual relegation to Division 2, a fanciful notion not long before.

Kildare had won a landmark victory over Dublin in Division 1, their first in the fixture in 12 years. Any notion that this would translate to championship was scotched in bracing fashion in the Leinster final. By the time Con booted home the fifth goal on 26 minutes, we felt foolish for ever thinking otherwise.

While most of the credit went to the returning O'Callaghan and Cormac Costello, some of the relative newbies caught the eye, notably Lee Gannon, one of the few bright spots from the league, and Lorcan O'Dell. Tom Lahiff looked a much improved player on 2021.

Clifford was in lethal form when Kerry dispatched Dublin in a wet league game in Tralee in February

As with the first semi, calling it is a toss-up. On the RTÉ GAA podcast this week, Ciarán Whelan suggested that an All-Ireland win this year might mean more to the Dublin players than several of the six-in-a-row victories, given the jolt of last summer, the extent to which they were subsequently written off, and the fact that the age profile of the team is ticking upwards.

"There's an annoyance within the camp and you get a sense that this one would mean something more to them," said Whelan.

After the 2006 All-Ireland final win over Mayo, Jack O'Connor entered the losing dressing room and told them that Kerry's "need" was greater. Their level of neediness in 2022 must be reaching critical levels. We've been informed that another loss would constitute a catastrophe.

Kerry came unstuck last year against a counter-attacking Tyrone side who set out to smother them. Dublin, while more lethal up front than the reigning champions, are created in a different mould and their approach may be more to Kerry's liking.

The Munster champions are three years older and wiser than in 2019. Their defence looks to be more resolute and sure-footed. The time has come for them to deliver.

Named XVs

Kerry: Shane Ryan; Graham O'Sullivan, Jason Foley, Tom O'Sullivan; Brian Ó Beaglaíoch, Tadhg Morley, Gavin White; David Moran, Diarmuid O'Connor; Dara Moynihan, Seán O'Shea, Stephen O'Brien; Paudie Clifford, David Clifford, Paul Geaney.

Dublin: Evan Comerford; Eoin Murchan, Mick Fitzsimons, Lee Gannon; John Small, Jonny Cooper, Seán Bugler; Brian Fenton, Tom Lahiff; Niall Scully, Brian Howard, Ciarán Kilkenny; Cormac Costello, Dean Rock, Paddy Small.

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